After the win, Gophers coach P.J. Fleck gave a version of his standard line when a player misses a game for disciplinary reasons. “If you don’t do the right things, you are not going to travel, you are not going to play,” Fleck said. “I’ve said that since day one, since the day I walked in here. Doesn’t matter who you are.”
On Dec. 19, Fleck said at least one starter would miss the bowl game after violating team rules, but didn’t say whom or share a specific reason why.
Without Martin and the previously known absence of linebacker Blake Cashman, who said Dec. 11 he’s skipping the bowl to prepare for the NFL, the Gophers were without two of its top four tacklers against the nation’s best rushing attack. The task against Georgia Tech looked to be an even more daunting task with two top defensive tackles, O.J. Smith and Jamaal Teague, out with unspecified injuries.
But the Yellow Jackets’ option offense, which averaged of 335 rushing yards a game, was held to under 100 through three quarters and finished with 206. The Gophers never trailed and had a two-score lead for the final three-plus quarters.
With Georgia Tech running the ball on about 80 percent of snaps, Fleck said he wanted his players to maintain disciple of doing their own job even if it gets boring. “You’ve got to make sure you don’t go from your job to somebody else’s job because that’s how they beat you,” Fleck said. “And I thought our players tackled really well. They did their job and they communicated really well and I thought our coaches did a good job of subbing our players in.”
Martin, a junior from Burnsville, has played in all 12 games and started nine at linebacker. He didn’t start for three games due to the Gophers sometimes beginning games in nickel package with five defensive backs and one less linebacker. He was fourth on the team with 59 tackles.
Smith, a redshirt junior from Bossier City, La., started five games, but has missed six due to a head injury. He returned to play in the 35-17 win over Wisconsin, which made the Gophers bowl eligible with six wins. He has seven tackles in six games.
Teague, a true freshman from South Holland, Ill., has removed his redshirt and has played in seven games this season. He has two sacks and eight tackles in seven games.
Minnesota has been without star safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who had season-ending Lisfranc foot surgery after the 41-13 loss to Maryland in the Big Ten opener on Sept. 22, as well as senior cornerback Antonio Shenault, who missed the final six games with a head injury.